Media statement: Update in respect of the Recognition of Muslim Marriages Case (Women’s Legal Centre v The President and Others):

MEDIA STATEMENT: Update in respect of the Recognition of Muslim Marriages Case (Women’s Legal Centre v The President and Others):

24 May 2019

On 9 May 2019, a full bench of the High Court in the Western Cape granted leave to appeal, and leave to cross-appeal their judgment in the Recognition of Muslim marriages case. The judgment and order, handed down in August 2018, held that the State has a duty to recognise marriages concluded in terms of Shari’a law, and that the State has an obligation to enact legislation which will ensure the judgement becomes a part of recognized law. The legislation, however, is only required to be formally legislated in two years, which leaves women vulnerable in the interim.

In October 2018, the President and the Minister of Justice applied for leave to appeal against the whole judgement. Leave to appeal was subsequently granted, and it was decided that the matter will be taken to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The Women’s Legal Centre applied for leave to cross-appeal against the judgement in October 2018, which was granted on 9 May 2019.  Our reasons for cross appealing were that we were dissatisfied with the following parts of the judgment:

  1. We believe that the Court should have granted interim relief to women who are currently in a position where they require legal recognition of their marriages, so that their rights to housing, land and property are protected until legislation in enacted. The judgment did not provide women with any remedy while they awaited the two-year period for the state to develop and adopt legislation recognising their marriages.
  2. We believe that the Court erred in finding that Islamic marriages are currently “out of community of property” in South Africa when we know that people have different ways in which they deal with marital property within their marriage, and at the dissolution thereof, This is an issue best left to the legislature, and not the courts, to determine.
  3. Our cross-appeal is also driven by our belief that the Court erred in finding that there was widespread objection to legislative regulation and a lack of consensus in this respect in the Muslim community in South Africa. This was an irrelevant finding to the relief sought, and there was simply not enough evidence before Court to draw this conclusion. Even where there is possible objection, such objections cannot override the state’s constitutional duty.
  4. Further, the Court erred in not compelling the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development to put in place policy or regulatory measures in terms of the Intestate Succession Act, to deal with the administration of estates which come from Muslim marriages at the office of the Master of the High Court. We led evidence showing that there was enough case law to justify putting in place such regulatory /policy measures.
  5. The Court further erred in failing to find that there is an obligation on the Minister of Justice to put in place measures that promote and protect Muslim women’s access to rights already given by prior judgments of the Courts, in respect of the consequences of Muslim marriages, particularly in respect of intestate succession.

We are confident that the case and the issues faced by Muslim women will be addressed by the Supreme Court of Appeal in ensuring that the principles of our Constitution are upheld. At the same time, we are mindful that women continue to face a violation of their rights, as well as discrimination on a daily basis because of the lack of recognition of their marriages. We continue to consult a number of women every day who face these and other kinds of injustices, which drives our further litigation and urgency on this matter, highlighting the need and importance of feminist litigation. Women in South Africa are entitled to equal recognition and protection of their Constitutional rights, regardless of race, gender, religion, economic status or other.

For further enquiries, contact Aisha Hamdulay at or

Media Statement: Workers Day

01 MAY 2019

Since its inception, a key objective of the Women’s Legal Centre has been advocating for the rights and protection of vulnerable women in the workplace. There is much to be said about the current struggles of women and work in South Africa, where we find that unequal gender and power relations lead to the marginalization and vulnerability of women, and socio-economic drivers continue to leave black women in the most vulnerable position in society. We still find gender disparities in terms of employment where women only occupy 1 in 3 managerial positions and even fewer senior positions. Furthermore, the women who do occupy managerial and senior positions are still largely white.

Black women make up a large part of the poor and working class, locked into cycles of poverty. They are bound to casual labour where they are paid the least but work the longest hours. For women, casualization of labour impacts on their rights to organize, on their family life, as well as their vulnerability to sexual violence in the workplace. We recognize the impact of intersectionality on women’s work experiences, and acknowledge the struggles faced by all vulnerable workers including farm workers, migrants and domestic workers, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, and women from both rural and urban areas. This includes unfair discrimination; emotional, verbal and physical abuse; manipulation by employers; sexual harassment and more.  On this workers day, we acknowledge that while our Constitution addresses worker’s rights, the realization of these rights on the ground are often not sufficiently met and implemented. There is still much to be done in terms of achieving substantive equality with regards to women’s rights in the workplace.

On this note, we call for rights to be applied equally to all workers and for women to be protected in their workplaces. We call for the decriminalization of sex work, in order for sex work to be recognized legally as work. We acknowledge the struggles of sex workers, who are majority women, including the abuse faced by both clients and police, and the restrictions they face in accessing their given rights, and accessing justice because of the criminalization of their work choices.

In the workplace, women are still left at a disadvantage, unprotected and vulnerable. The high levels of sexual harassment that occurs in the workplace is symptomatic of toxic patriarchal cultures which must be addressed. It is unacceptable that women do not feel safe and protected in their workplaces. On this workers day, we recognize the victims of sexual harassment and abuse which stems from such cultures in the workplace – those sitting in both silence as well as those who have chosen to speak out.

We recognize that women have unique struggles in the workplace. We recognize the important role that African feminist litigation plays in advancing the rights of women in the workplace, and working towards eradicating those struggles. We pledge to continue using this to fight for women to have equal rights in the workplace. We call on government, the private sector and all employers to take a feminist approach in their laws, policies and processes to ensure that women are sufficiently protected in the workplace.

For further enquiries, contact Aisha Hamdulay at or

Media Statement: Human Rights Day: Looking Back, Moving Forward 21 March 2019


Equality is one of the substantive rights enshrined in our Constitution, which is praised for being one of the most progressive constitutions in the world in terms of socio-economic and human rights. It was a struggle for equality which ignited the Sharpeville protests 59 years ago, of which we remember, and honour, the 69 protestors who were killed in the Sharpeville massacre. The right to Equality provides that no person may be unfairly discriminated against based on sex, race, gender, sexual orientation etc. Today, 59 years after this incident, and over 20 years into our democracy, despite a progressive and comprehensive constitution which should protect us, this sense of equality is still not felt. Many people face grave violations of their rights, especially womxn, who face significant amounts of violence, abuse and discrimination on a daily basis. Additionally, while there has been progress in the legal system with regard to womxn’s rights, there are still major problems with womxn’s access to legal services. It is these dynamics which informed the very formation of the Women’s Legal Centre 20 years ago.

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Media Statement: Stop the Silencing of Womxn Victims 18 March 2019


On 13 March 2019, Gugu Ncube staged a one-womxn protest outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Ncube’s placard read:

“President Ramaphosa: 1) The police are used to intimidate, threaten and harass me. 2) I was raped, sexually harassed by Shibambu Mhlava at UNISA. 3) I spoke out, they lied that I had resigned. #Produce my resignation. 4)CCMA Commissioner took bribe from the perpetrator. “

This was in response to alleged sexual harassment and rape suffered at the hands of her employer while working for Unisa Centre for Early Childhood Education, as well as additional threats and intimidation she faced from SAPS. While protesting semi-naked outside the Union Buildings, Gugu was arrested by SAPS on the basis of public indecency. In videos circulating online, the undignified and unnecessarily violent way in which SAPS treated Ncube can be seen.

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Public Statement: Women Who Testified in the Equal Education Enquiry on Sexual Harassment Speak

Public Statement

Women Who Testified in the Equal Education Enquiry on Sexual Harassment Speak

We are some of the 19 women who submitted our confidential testimonies to the Equal Education enquiry on Sexual Harassment. We read Judge Satchwell’s report with densely felt disappointment. We had hoped, that based on the promises of the new leadership of Equal Education, and the moment we live in today, that this time around our stories would be heard. Our stories are all different, but together they paint a coherent and strongly corroborated picture of a pattern of behaviour at Equal Education: Sexual harassment, intimidation, bullying, cover-ups, and threats. While we draw strength from the #MeToo movement, we are acutely aware of the failures of formal legal processes and inquiries to side with women against powerful, protected men. 

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Media Statement: Justice for the families of the CTCHC housing scheme

Media Statement

Justice for the families of the CTCHC housing scheme

Women have historically been disproportionately and negatively impacted by a lack of access to adequate housing, and evictions. There exists an ongoing discrimination faced by women in respect of access to land, housing, tenure security, and ownership; which also operates when women attempt to access social housing schemes. The Women’s Legal Centre (‘WLC’) therefore welcomes the unanimous decision of the Constitutional Court in the matter of Amardien and 12 Others v Registrar of Deeds and 4 Others (Case CCT 212/17), which was handed down on 28 November 2018. The decision sets aside and replaces the order of the High Court which upheld the cancellation of instalment sale agreements between CTCHC and the Applicants, and the sale of their homes. Had the matter not come before the Constitutional Court, the High Court decision would have opened the Applicants, along with their families, up to eviction and the loss of their homes.

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Women’s Legal Centre Statement: Satchwell Report in Equal Education Inquiry disregards sexual harassment complainants

Media Statement

Satchwell Report in Equal Education Inquiry disregards sexual harassment complainants:

In August 2018 the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) received instructions on behalf of numerous women to provide them with advice and to represent them before an Inquiry established by Equal Education (EE) to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and similar misconduct by Doron Isaacs (Isaacs) during his tenure at EE. The Terms of Reference also instructed the Panel to review a previous investigation against Isaacs for sexual harassment in 2011 and to look into allegations of silencing and intimidation of complaints against Isaacs. The Panel was further tasked with investigating allegations contained in the Mail and Guardian against Isaacs and Zackie Achmat (Achmat).

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Statement – WLCT v President of the Republic of South Africa & Others

Media Statement

Women’s Legal Centre Trust v President of the Republic of South Africa & Others (case no: 22481/2014) – Recognition of Muslim Marriages:

The Women’s Legal Centre welcomes the judgment handed down by the Western Cape High Court this morning (31 Aug 2018) by Honourable Judges Desai, Boqwana, and Salie-Hlophe.

The judgment declares that the President and Cabinet have failed to fulfil their constitutional obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in sections 9, 10, 15, 28, 31 and 34 of the Constitution[1], and that such conduct is invalid.[2] The President and Cabinet, together with Parliament have been directed to rectify this failure within 24 months and to enact ‘legislation to recognise marriages solemnised in accordance with the tenets of Sharia law (`Muslim marriages’) as valid marriages and to regulate the consequences of such recognition.’[3] In addition, the judgment has ordered that should such legislation not be enacted within the 24 month period, marriages solemnised in terms of Sharia law may ‘be dissolved in accordance with the Divorce Act 70 of 1979’, provided that section 7(3)[4] of the Act will apply to such unions.[5]

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Moosa NO and others v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and others

Media Statement

Moosa NO and others v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and others (Trustees of The Women’s Legal Centre Trust as Amicus Curiae) CCT 251/17:

The Women’s Legal Centre welcomes the unanimous judgment handed down this morning (29 June 2018) by the Constitutional Court in the matter of Moosa NO and Others v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and Others (Trustees of the Women’s Legal Centre Trust as Amicus Curiae). Once again, the Court has had to come to the assistance of Muslim women in this country, who continue to face the negative consequences of their marriages not being legally recognised.

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